• Kyodo, Staff Report

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A undamaged bullet found on the grounds of a U.N. peacekeeping base in South Sudan is not evidence that Japanese troops came under fire, the government said Friday.

The bullet was found at the site in Juba on Dec. 16, 2013, and later went on display at a Ground Self-Defense Force camp at Fukuchiyama in Kyoto Prefecture.

Whether the troops came under fire is a sensitive matter in Japan, where a recent shake-up of defense and security matters potentially empowers troops to return fire overseas.

Because the GSDF’s peacekeeping operations are supposed to be carried out in noncombat areas, the finding raised questions about the Defense Ministry’s policy of not disclosing whether bases used by GSDF peacekeepers come under fire.

The 5.56-mm bullet was undamaged, which analysts say suggests it fell from the sky and was not fired within effective distance. Bullets usually deform when striking a target.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has upheld the conclusions of a document that said, “It has not been confirmed that bullets were aimed or fired at the camp and hit the premises.”

The document, prepared in response to questions by the Democratic Party’s Mitsunori Okamoto, said the government has not found evidence of any bullet strikes on SDF camps since Japanese troops began taking part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in 1992.

About 400 GSDF troops including some from Fukuchiyama served as peacekeepers in Juba from December 2013 to May 2014. The GSDF still supports a U.N. mission in the conflict-ravaged country.

The civil war in South Sudan intensified starting in December 2013 and shooting was heard near the GSDF base in January 2014, prompting an order for personnel at the barracks to arm themselves.

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